A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
People with differences and/or disabilities deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Loving someone asks that you give them the freedom to be their best selves. Likewise, good parenting requires that you love your children as they are, not as how you would like them to be.
Positive Role Models
Mentally-challenged young adults sometimes have assets and resources that may be unexpected. Given a chance to grow and flourish, some special-needs people are able to function independently and live safely. Teachers, employers, and co-workers are portrayed as supportive, helpful, and caring.
Violence & Scariness
A child, upset by a group of other children who are teasing her, pushes one of them down a flight of carpeted stairs. He is not injured.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The issue of mentally-challenged young people engaging in sexual activity is a main story element. The two people involved read and study The Joy of Sex to educate themselves. "Doing it" is a repeated euphemism for intercourse. The couple kisses, undresses to their underwear, and moves off camera to make love. Another character is involved in a monogamous lesbian relationship, the acceptance of which by her family is another plot point.
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Though there is no swearing or harsh language, sexual terms are used on a few occasions: "penis," "semen," "sperm," "vulva," ""doing it.""
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Products & Purchases
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some social drinking: dinner table, wedding. One main character gets drunk on two occasions and his outrageous behavior affects the story's outcome. Another character is identified as a recovering alcoholic.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this film explores the challenges that a family faces when their developmentally-disabled daughter fights for independence and reacts to her own growing sexuality. The filmmakers take great care to introduce the young lovers (both of whom are mentally impaired) to sex in a mature and sensitive way. There is some kissing and they begin to undress, but with no actual nudity or foreplay. Language includes some terms associated with the human reproductive system. "Doing it" is the only way sexual intercourse is described. A young woman is seen in bed with her female sexual partner, and their lesbianism provides a separate challenge to some members of the family. There is alcohol consumption in social settings, and the young male lead purposefully gets drunk on two occasions and misbehaves. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Despite the vibrant performances of Juliette Lewis and Giovanni Ribisi and some touching scenes between the two, THE OTHER SISTER is predictable, sentimental, and very heavy-handed. Subtlety and nuance are nowhere to be found in Garry Marshall's direction, particularly notable in the performances of Diane Keaton and Tom Skerritt as Carla's father. Characters change positions in a flash and learn lessons instantaneously. What might have been grace notes (Daniel's love of marching bands and Carla's connection with animals) are instead hammered home at every opportunity. The only virtue is a skin-deep message about accepting differences and treating even "special" people with dignity.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Our Editors Recommend
Drama Movies That Tug at the Heartstrings
Movies with Characters Who Have Learning and Attention Issues and Developmental Disabilities
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate